Poetry Scams

On another board I frequent, a person wrote about how elated he was that his wife entered a poetry contest. The poem was a little less than good. Sadly, the contest she entered was at poetry.com, a “contest” that accepts nearly every poem sent in for publication in a book that they will then sell you for the “special” price of $49.99 (plus additional money for a bio, photo, dedication, illustraion etc.) Look at some of the poetry on their site. It is truely aweful.

I find this scam reprehensible. I feel that it preys on people’s hopes in order to get their money. It dupes people, and that is wrong. It also keeps people from truly trying to improve their work.

My signifigant other, on the other hand, thinks that the scam makes people happy, and it is okay. After all, people do get what they paid for. If vanity publishing makes people happy, what is wrong with it?

I would like to hear what others think. Also, I would like to know if one should break the news to people who fall for it (and who are very happy that they are among the “specially chosen”) that they were duped. Should I burst their bubble so they dont get taken for a ride?

No, I don’t think poetry.com and similar scams are ethical. If they were, we’d hardly refer to them as “scams,” now would we.

Certainly they’re intellectually dishonest, and very different from vanity publishing. Unless I’m completely mistaken, in vanity publishing it’s made very clear that you’re paying to get a publication with your name in it. Poetry.com, OTOH, dupes you into believing that you have “won” a prize that you then have to pay for. As mentioned, this also discourages people from improving their work, and in fact can give them an inflated opinion of their work. (Not that the latter is necessarily a bad thing.

But, ultimately, their purpose is not to encourage poets and publish poetry but to make money off people too dumb to know better. And that’s unethical.

As far as letting the person know, that’s a judgement call only you can make. However, you can nudge him in the right direction with a good URL about these scams, if you don’t want to be direct about it. The Harrow has a page listing such scams - and besides, it’s another place she can submit her poetry, if she’s written something fantastic or horrific. :wink:

I received an ad in the mail for a similar scam, involving a book of family histories/family trees of people with the same last name as me. I submit my family history information, they type it up and add it to their book, and they then turn around and sell the book to all of its contributors. No different than what poetry.com does, except they don’t have any pretext of pre-screening for “quality” of work.

This sounds similar to the poetry contest I submitted to a few years back. They encouraged you to buy the book becuase “your poem would be published!!” It was also around $50.00.

Submitting the poetry entry itself, however, was free.

But, here’s what happened: a friend and I both entered. She was more excited than I and paid for the book. I just wanted to win thegrand prize. We received identical mailings that told us we were going to be published, and even each received a typeset proof copy of our poems that had to be signed before the book went to print. But then came time for payment for the book.

Guess who’s poem never appeared in print?

Never through the process was I told my poem was being rejected. As I said, the mailings were identical up to the point of buying the book. I also never indicated that I wanted to buy the book.

So, apparently, you can’t be published (and can’t win) unless you pay, no matter what they tell you.

I think that book is certainly not a scam. You should trust my opinion too, because I was important enough to make it into Who’s Who of high school students.

OK, yes the site is a scam. But, in a way, it’s not. They offer a service, publication, for a fee of $50. It’s that clear. Most people understand that publication in this respect doesn’t really mean anything. The only thing they’re doing wrong is praying off the ignorance, the hopes and dreams, of others.

Now, what if we change it around a bit? Pay me $50 and I might publish your poem. That’s illegal. Pay $50 and be entered into a grand prize of $1000 ala wrath’s story. Most certainly illegal.

As it stands right now, what they’re doing is unethical (at least to me) but not illegal.

Hate to bicker with you, but vanity publishing is a scam as well. The sucker … uh, author … is badly misled about the commercial possibilities of his book. When an author submits his work to a vanity publisher (usually in response to an ad requesting submissions), the publisher immediately responds with a letter praising the author’s work to the skies and assuring him that the work in question deserves to be published via the vanity publishers “subsidy” program. (Legitimate publishers don’t need to advertise for submissions because they’ve already got hundreds or thousands of manuscripts coming to them already without any advertising.) The whole point of vanity publishing is to get the author to sign a contract which requires him to pay several thousand dollars to have his book published.

The “publication” is a farce. The contract may require the publisher to print thousands of copies, but he only has to bind a few dozen to meet the requirements of the contract–so, while several thousand copies may be printed, only a few dozen will actually be bound. The publisher promises to send review copies to reviewers, and he does. But reviewers know all the vanity publishers (and the low quality of their books) and will not bother to review books published by them. Similarly, the publisher promises to advertise the book, and he does. But the ads are “tombstone” ads with 20 or 30 titles listed all in the same ad and no more than a one or two line description of the book, perhaps not even that. Book stores will not stock the book because shelf space costs money, they know who the vanity publishers are, and they know from sad experience that books by vanity publishers simply don’t sell. In short, no serious effort whatsoever is made to market the book and get it into book stores. The author is out six or seven thousand dollars, and he has nothing to show for it except maybe the ten or twenty complimentary copies the publisher sent him.

And why should a vanity publisher make any effort to market the book? He makes his money from the author, not readers. He gets six or seven thousand dollars from the author, spends maybe two or three thousand (if that) producing and “marketing” the book, and pockets the difference. He’ll publish anything an author pays him to publish that won’t get him in legal trouble,so there’s virtually no quality control. The manuscript is given a quick editing to eliminate the more glaring errors in spelling and grammar as well as anything that might get the publisher sued. The contract is worded in such a way as to impose virtually no responsibilities on the publisher. Worst of all, the author may have lost all legal control over the book. He can’t even take his manuscript to a legitimate publisher because the vanity publisher has all rights to the book.

In short, stay away from anyone who wants you to pay to publish your work.

  1. Pay a whack of cash to an organization.
  2. Write something which may or may not be very good.
  3. Have the organization print up a few copies.

Could be vanity press, but more likely a typical grad school thesis.


… But at least vanity publishers don’t make you do your OWN printing, supply your own 100% cotton paper, and then ask you to print pages 12 through 37 all over again at the eleventh hour because the margins are a quarter of an inch too narrow!